Words: Nick Christian | Photos: Swpix.com
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This is the sixth part of an article entitled ‘Rouleur’s Super Six’, originally published in Rouleur issue 20.4, on sale now
Ethan Hayter could be considered one of the most successful riders currently employed in the World Tour. His 100 per cent record of top-ten finishes in top-tier races might be from just a single outing – last August’s RideLondon-Surrey Classic, won by Elia Viviani – but he still beat some pretty big names to secure it.
“The race wasn’t that hard. Hopefully they're all like that,” Hayter tells us. “Though I know they're definitely not,” he adds, conscious of not wanting to sound arrogant.
Even without the creative accounting, there is evidence enough to support the view that the 21-year-old’s future is so bright you’d be advised against staring directly at it.
As one sixth of the elite British Cycling Olympic endurance squad, Hayter is practically expected to return from Tokyo with a medal. Though naturally disappointed that the games have had to be pushed back until 2021 due to the coronavirus crisis, there could be a silver lining to the postponement. “I started kind of late so I was playing catch up all the time,” he says. “Physically it takes a while to get good at cycling, just because the amount of time you ride your bike generally correlates to how good you are.”
While permanently based in England’s north, having recently bought his first house and added a detectable Mancunian twang to his voice, Hayter hails originally from the capital. He cut his teeth on the same celebrated circle of south London as Sir Bradley Wiggins, Herne Hill’s historic uncovered velodrome. In the wake of the Wiggins-led cycling boom that followed the 2012 Olympics and Britain’s first Tour de France victory, Hayter trailed a friend down to the Saturday sessions run by his local club where he quickly discovered a talent for, well, going quickly: “I always did a few sports, but it's one of those things where you can just tell that you're fairly good at something.”
Picking up podiums in most national circuit races he entered inevitably attracted the attention of British Cycling and in 2014, Hayter was recruited into the so-called “medal factory”. Despite being well aware of the programme’s pedigree of producing Olympic champions, he says, “I didn't really dare to dream until around 2018.” That spring, while still a teenager, he was drafted into the Great Britain pursuit team and took world championship gold.
While his biggest results on the road have so far all come from bunch sprints, Hayter is in no rush to select an area of specialism. It’s not lost on him that two of his predecessors in the British Olympic team pursuit squad have gone on to win the Tour de France. Nor that, when racing eventually resumes, he will be wearing the same jersey as two more.
Stars of the Future part I: Remco Evenepoel
Stars of the Future part II: Chloé Dygert
Stars of the Future part III: Liane Lippert
Stars of the Future part IV: Giulio Ciccone
Stars of the Future part V: Jess Pratt